Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Read-Along Discussion: Chapter Eighteen

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Hello everyone, and welcome to another Tuesday and another preview chapter from Rhythm of War! We’ve only got ONE MORE to go until the full release… are you excited? I know I am! Are you planning on attending the digital book release party? I have it on good authority that it’s going to be a fun time, so if you haven’t already, check out the information on how to attend here!

This week, Kaladin’s family arrives at Urithiru. Join in the discussion in the comment section below, and remember to be considerate of those avoiding spoilers in other places online!

Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the entirety of the series up until now—if you haven’t read ALL of the published entries of the Stormlight Archive, best to wait to join us until you’re done.

In this week’s discussion we also discuss god metals in the Fabrials section, which is a Thing we learned from Mistborn, but we don’t explain anything about them so you’ll probably be safe even if you haven’t read those books.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Kaladin
WHERE: Urithiru, Narak
WHEN: Day 20 or 21 (Rock & Co. left “nearly four weeks ago” on Day 2)

Kaladin takes a little day trip over to the Shattered Plains to meet up with the caravan arriving from Hearthstone. He gives his parents a tour of Urithiru, and shows them the surgical room he’s prepared for Lirin.

Overall Reactions

A: Well, and here we are: Hearthstone arrives at Urithiru! To the relief (presumably) of those who feared disaster during the voyage of the Fourth Bridge, it has arrived at Narak, safe and sound, guarded by Windrunners and Edgedancers. Nineteen days on a flying boat couldn’t be exactly comfortable, but it’s over now, and the Oathgate brings them all to the Tower.

Needless to say, this also brings Kaladin back together with his family—which is the focus of most of the chapter.

“Disrespectful of lighteyed authority,” Hesina said, “and generally inclined to do whatever he wants, regardless of social class or traditions. Where in Roshar did he get it?” She glanced at Kaladin’s father, who stood by the wall inspecting the lines of strata.

“I can’t possibly imagine,” Lirin said.

A: I know this is an unpopular sentiment, but I like Lirin. While I don’t always agree with his opinions, I do like him as a person. His sense of humor, in particular, appeals to me.

L: I’ll begrudgingly give you that one. He has a very sarcastic, almost British sense of humor and it does play very well off of Hesina’s.

A: I love the way he and Hesina play off one another; to me, it shows the depth of affection and understanding of a mature married couple who, despite their personality differences, wouldn’t ever want to be with anyone else. (Part of the reason I like Lirin & Hesina so much is that they remind me of my parents—after 60+ years of marriage, they still teased each other like this. Mom was the “silly” one who laughed easily at any little thing, and Dad was the one with the dry humor who rarely laughed out loud. I miss them.)

L: I see where you’re coming from, but I still don’t like him. He’s emotionally abusive of his son, and Hesina allows it to continue. I can understand why he acts the way he does, but I don’t agree with him or his methods. I don’t like him as a person, though I allow that he’s a good, believable character (much like Moash).

A: Hmm. I disagree about the “emotionally abusive” part, but I don’t think this is the chapter to talk about it, so I won’t go there.

L: Pretty safe to say that we’re still going to be on either side of this argument, seeing as how we were for the entirety of the beta too. Healthy debate time!

“Lirin surgically removed his sense of humor,” Hesina said.

“Got good money for it on the open market too,” Lirin said.

Kaladin leaned against the wall, feeling a familiar peace at their banter. Once, having them close again would have been nearly everything he wanted. Watching Lirin obsess. Hearing Hesina trying to get him to pay attention to the people around him. The fond way Lirin took the jokes, playing into them by being comically stern.

A: I won’t dive into all the arguments I’ve had over this, but I would suggest accepting Kaladin’s word for it. There is genuine love and affection in this family, despite differences of opinion.

L: Love doesn’t preclude the presence of emotional abuse.

A: As noted above, this isn’t the right chapter to debate this, IMO. But I do have Arguments Against.

Exam table. A glistening set of the finest instruments, including equipment Kaladin’s father had never been able to afford: scalpels, a device for listening to a patient’s heartbeat, a magnificent fabrial clock, a fabrial heating plate for boiling bandages or cleansing surgical tools.

“I ordered in the best from Taravangian’s physicians,” Kaladin said. “You’ll need to have Mother read to you about some of these newer medications—they’re discovering some remarkable things at the hospitals in Kharbranth. They say they’ve found a way to infect people with a weak, easily overcome version of a disease—which leaves them immune for life to more harsh variants.”

Lirin seemed… solemn. More than normal. Despite Hesina’s jokes, Lirin did laugh—he had emotions. Kaladin had seen them from him frequently. To have him respond to all of this with such quietude . . .

He hates it, Kaladin thought. What did I do wrong?

A: You can just about feel Kaladin’s confusion here. He worked hard—and I’m really impressed with his thoughtfulness and thoroughness—to make this everything his parents and their people would need. Lirin’s reaction is puzzling, to say the least… until you think way back to Chapter 3, when Lirin was enthusing about the possibility of using airships to provide mobile hospitals for battlefields, and Dalinar casually mentioned that Edgedancers do most of the field medicine these days. Apparently that’s been on his mind.

L: Also worth noting is that Roshar is making strides towards discovery of vaccines!

A: Right? Very cool. Also, I’d like to point out that this was written long before anyone ever heard of Covid-19, thank you very much. This is not an intentional commentary on current events. (It was in the beta, which we were reading in early February, so… yeah. Proof.)

L: It’s fascinating how many parallels to modern events you may wind up seeing in later chapters, though (and not in the ways you might think). That’s all I’ll say on that. Just keep in mind as you’re reading in two weeks that, as Alice said, all of this was written in the Before Times.

“It is very nice, son,” he said softly. “But I don’t see the use of it anymore.”

“What?” Kaladin asked. “Why?”

“Because of what those Radiants can do,” Lirin said. “I saw them healing with a touch! A simple gesture from an Edgedancer can seal cuts, even regrow limbs. This is wonderful, son, but… but I don’t see a use for surgeons any longer.”

Hesina leaned in to Kaladin. “He’s been moping about this the whole trip,” she whispered.

“I’m not moping,” Lirin said. “To be sad about such a major revolution in healing would be not only callous, but selfish as well. It’s just…” Lirin took a deep breath. “I guess I’ll need to find something else to do.”

Storms. Kaladin knew that exact emotion. That loss. That worry. That sudden feeling of becoming a burden.

A: Not quite what one might expect them to bond over, eh? But Kaladin’s empathy for his father’s perspective is… well, hopeful, for me. As much as they’ve been at odds, for Kaladin to understand Lirin’s feeling here makes me think they can help one another.

L: Yeah. It’s a shame Lirin can’t display that same level of empathy towards his son’s choices.

“Father,” Kaladin said, “we have fewer than fifty Edgedancers—and just three Truthwatchers. Those are the only orders that can heal.”

Lirin looked up, cocking his head.

“… Most of the time those Edgedancers are serving on the battlefront, healing soldiers. The few on duty in Urithiru can be used for only the most dire of wounds.

“Plus their powers have limitations. … You’re not obsolete. Trust me, you’re going to be very, very useful here.”

Lirin regarded the room again, seeing it with new eyes. He grinned, then—possibly thinking he shouldn’t take joy in the idea that people would still need surgeons—stood up. “Well then! I suppose I should familiarize myself with this new equipment. Medications that can prevent diseases, you say? What an intriguing concept.”

A: And Kaladin’s response works. We’ve talked occasionally about Lirin knowing what buttons to push on Kaladin, but it goes both ways. That’s what happens when you know people really well.

L: It’s very sweet to see Kaladin pushing those buttons to help bring his father’s spirits up!

A: The possibilities for Lirin, Hesina, and the rest of Hearthstone fitting in with the new Urithiru economy… this all makes me happy. I didn’t quote it, but earlier Kaladin mentioned that the place is full of soldiers, but has a dearth of people who know their way around a farm; this was part of how he’d convinced Dalinar that it would be worth the effort to bring all of the village residents back to the Tower. This move toward a functional, self-sufficient society is delightfully hopeful.

“I’m going to be leaving the military,” Kaladin said. “I need a break from the fighting, and Dalinar commanded it. So I thought maybe I would take the room beside Oroden’s. I . . . might need to find something different to do with my life.”

Hesina raised her hand to her lips again. Lirin stopped dead, going pale, as if he’d seen a Voidbringer. Then his face burst with the widest grin Kaladin had ever seen on him. He strode over and seized Kaladin by the arms.

“That’s what this is about, isn’t it?” Lirin said. “The surgery room, the supplies, that talk of the clinic. You’ve realized it. You finally understand that I’ve been right. You’re going to become a surgeon like we always dreamed!”

A: This… kind of breaks my heart. It’s lovely, in a way, but it also shows how much Lirin no longer actually knows his son. Maybe he never really did, because there’s always been the side of Kaladin with that affinity for the spear, which Lirin never acknowledged or accepted.

L: Yeah. This is heartbreaking. Not being able to accept who your children really are isn’t a good thing. I can understand why he’s so overjoyed, but he’s letting his desire for his son to be following in his footsteps to overshadow his observational skills as to what it’s doing to Kaladin emotionally. It should be clear to anyone with eyes (as is evident by the fact that Bridge Four keeps checking in on him) that Kaladin’s really not in a good place. An empathic person would see this and try to temper their joy, to determine if this is really what Kaladin wants. But Lirin is so focused on what he wants for his son, that he’s overlooking the fact that Kaladin might be doing this not strictly of his own free will, or doing it to the detriment of what he really wants. I’m reminded of stories of people who are pressured to take over the family business when their true passions lie in other areas. It rarely ends well. (With the exception of It’s a Wonderful Life, I suppose.) (I’m sorry, now that I’ve made this mental connection, now all I can imagine is Syl chirping “every time a bell rings, a spren gets her wings!” and I’m cracking up.)

A: To be fair to Lirin, Kaladin has not shown his parents much of his depression, at least not on screen. Should they be able to see through his excitement about showing them what he’s set up, in this scene? We get to see his internal reluctance, but I don’t think he’s showing them much.

L: That’s a fair point.

That was the answer, of course. The one Kaladin had been purposely avoiding. He’d considered the ardents, he’d considered the generals, and he’d considered running away.

The answer was in the face of his father, a face that a part of Kaladin dreaded. Deep down, Kaladin had known there was only one place he could go once the spear was taken from him.

A: What a bitter turn to a hopeful moment. It’s sad, and discouraging, to see Kaladin accept this solution with such reluctant resignation.

L: Because it’s not what he really wants. It’s never been what he really wanted. Helping people on a tiny, one-on-one basis is admirable, but he wants to save hundreds. Thousands.

A: Even so, there’s still hope that he can find meaning, and a way to continue his ideals of protection, through a different path than before.

What are your expectations, folks? Is this going to work out well, or is his reluctance going to doom the effort from the start? What will happen?

Syl-logisms

A: Yeah, we need this one again. Syl was her usual sparkling self this week, but a few moments stand out:

“Your surprises,” Kaladin said, “are never fun.”

“I put a rat in his boot,” Syl whispered. “It took me forever. I can’t lift something so heavy, so I had to lead it with food.”

“Why in the Stormfather’s name,” Lirin said, “would you put a rat in his boot?”

“Because it fit so well!” Syl said. “How can you not see how great the idea was?”

A: While the Dad part of me sympathizes with Lirin’s response, the Mom part is giggling like mad over this whole scene as it plays out in my head.

L: Classic element of physical comedy.

“I didn’t know there were so many books in the world,” Syl said. “Won’t they use up all the words? Seems like eventually you’d say everything that could be said!”

A: LOL! Fortunately for us, there’s always a new way to combine the words, and they don’t wear out with the using.

L: One of my literature professors in college told me once, “there are only five stories in the world, but infinite ways to tell them.”

A: Nice. I’d be curious what the five are… but probably not in this context!

L: I wish I could remember them all, I know one was “a stranger comes to town.”

“There’s a space for the baby here, and I picked out the toys, because Kaladin would probably have bought him a spear or something dumb.”

A: She’s not wrong, you know. I mean, maybe not a spear, but it’s hard to imagine Kaladin picking out baby toys! Also, her attitude when she talks about Kaladin is a joy to behold—in a different way than when she talks to him. Both are wonderful, just … very different. As relationships often go.

L: Her teasing comes from a place of love, and I am confident that if Kaladin ever told her that she was being legitimately hurtful, that she would stop.

A: You’re right on that point… unless for some reason she was certain that the pain she was causing was necessary for him. Kaladin knows that, IMO—Syl is always and forever on his side.

Humans

Rock’s family, Skar, and Drehy had left nearly four weeks ago. They’d sent word a single time via spanreed, soon after their departure, noting that they’d arrived.

A: I’ll admit, I find it moderately disturbing that they haven’t sent any word since they arrived. It could just mean that there hasn’t been anything important enough to bother spanreeding about it, right? But … the note on which Rock departed was so portentous, I can’t quite convince myself.

L: I really hope that we get this story, someday. It feels to me like we will!

A: My big hope is that this story will be the Stormlight Archive 4.5 novella. While I’m not big on claiming “the author promised!” something I want, it does seem that Brandon has given us indications for this one.

Under Jasnah’s new inheritance laws, Laral would gain the title of citylady, so she’d gone to be formally greeted by Jasnah.

A: Hoooo boy. Jasnah’s proposal to free all the slaves seems to be just one of a series of changes to Alethi social structures! On the one hand, I wholeheartedly approve the idea of leaving the woman who probably did all the administration in charge, rather than booting her out and giving the position to some random stranger who “deserves” it—or equally awful, forcing her to marry some jerk in order to retain anything of her life when her husband dies. On the other hand, this does set up an even more feudal situation, where the position stays in the family whether they’re doing the job well or not. Not that I have a better solution for the Alethi in this moment, mind you; someone is going to be in charge, and there are a lot of terrible ways to decide who that is. Leaving it in the hands of someone trained to the task is certainly one of the less terrible ways.

L: Allowing women to pursue and attain positions of power is absolutely a step in the right direction. It’s a long road out of feudalism, to be sure.

A: I do look forward to seeing more of Jasnah’s restructuring, whether in this book or others. It will be interesting to see how successful she is in remaking her culture! Of course, there has to be an Alethkar left to remake, so… we’ll see.

Bruised & Broken

He hadn’t yet told them he planned to do something else—though he had to decide today what that would be. Dalinar still wanted him to become an ambassador. But could Kaladin really spend his days in political negotiations? No, he’d be as awkward as a horse in a uniform standing in a ballroom and trying not to step on women’s dresses.

L: It’s good that he recognizes that this isn’t the right path for him. Better than trying to do it and winding up even more miserable, feeling like a failure…

A: I can’t quite figure out why Dalinar wants Kaladin, of all people, to be an ambassador. It’s so not his skill set! He doesn’t have that ability to see the other person’s perspective yet, and you really need that for negotiations.

L: Doesn’t he? He’s always displayed a great deal of empathy for the other side. Look at how he reacts to being called out on his interactions with women, and Rlain. Look at how he reacts to the Singers he traveled with in Oathbringer.

A: With both Lyn and Rlain, he had to have it shoved in his face that his solution for them was not what they wanted. And I’d argue that the singers he empathizes with are those who are in a very familiar situation to what he’s come out of. He understands situations he’s already been in; that doesn’t give him any ability to understand the person he doesn’t already relate to in some way.

L: That’s a fair point. He didn’t come to those realizations on his own, for the most part, unless they’re very similar to what he’s already experienced. Also… he is stubborn to a fault (::cough reactions to lighteyes cough::). I’d think that Adolin would be a much more effective ambassador, personally. (And think of all the different fashion choices he could experiment with!)

A: LOL. I agree wholeheartedly. Adolin has both the training and the personality to see things from someone else’s perspective. (At least… when he isn’t emotionally involved, like with Sadeas…) He’d make a much better ambassador than Kaladin. Negotiations don’t usually go well if the other person has to whack you over the head with their personal motivations.

L: I concede this point to you!

I’ll miss this, he thought, then immediately felt foolish. He wasn’t dying. He was retiring. He would still fly. To pretend otherwise was self-pity. Facing this change with dignity was difficult, but he would do it.

L: Another good sign. He hasn’t given up. He’s still fighting. And he still has flying, which is an outlet and a source of joy for him.

A: Absolutely. I can’t help thinking that as long as he has Syl and he can fly, he’ll be able to work through the rest of it.

Geography

A: Is this an okay place to put odd observations about Urithiru itself? Because this makes no sense to me:

He ducked under a strange outcropping of stone in the hallway. Urithiru had numerous such oddities; this one was round, a stone tube crossing the center of the hallway. Perhaps it was ventilation? Why had it been put right where people walked?

A: Seriously, why?

L: I can’t think of what this could possibly be, either.

A: Kaladin has a later comment that fits my thinking too:

One might have called the arrangement mad, but even at its most baffling, hints of design—such as crystal veins running along the corners of rooms, or places where strata wove to form patterns reminiscent of glyphs set into the wall—made Kaladin think this place was purposeful and not haphazard. These oddities had been built for reasons they couldn’t yet fathom.

A: I’m positive that everything in Urithiru was built that way for a reason. Unfortunately, all too often Sanderson will drop in something like this and then just leave it for a book or two. How long will it be before we find out why there’s a stone tube across a hallway where people have to duck under it?

L: Think for a moment about how weird it would be for someone from the 1300s to walk through a modern building. What are all these cords that look like tree roots? Why are there bulges in the ceilings that burst into light? The little squares on the wall with holes in them that are in every single room? It would all seem so strange and foreign. What’s that quote about technology being indecipherable from magic?

A: Probably a good analogy! I so look forward to learning more about Urithiru!

Fabrial Technology & Spheres

The Fused have a second metal I find fascinating—a metal that conducts Stormlight. The implications for this in the creation of fabrials are astounding. The Fused use this metal in conjunction with a rudimentary fabrial—a simple gemstone, but without a spren trapped inside.

How they pull Stormlight out of a Radiant and into this sphere remains baffling. My scholars think they must be employing an Investiture differential. If a gemstone is full of Stormlight—or, I assume, Voidlight—and that Light is removed quickly, it creates a pressure differential (or a kind of vacuum) in the gemstone.

This remains merely a theory.

A: Last week, Navani talked about a metal that blocks Shardblades (presumably both kinds) and resists being Soulcast. This week, it’s a metal that conducts Stormlight—which, from context, none of the others do. This combination of epigraphs makes me reasonably certain that these are “god metals”—metal made of the solid form of Investiture from a specific Shard. While I don’t have much evidence for which is which, here’s a loosely-held working theory for you: Shardblades are made from Tanavastium (or whatever the right name would be for Honor’s metal). The blocking/non-Soulcasting metal are Raysium, resisting the power of Honor. That would make the conducting metal the one we don’t have a name for—the solid Investiture of Cultivation.

One drawback to this theory is that the bonding spren, the ones that form Shardblades, aren’t 100% Honor, so far as we know. Is it possible that the Shardblades are made from Adonalsium(ium)? I don’t know what we’d call that metal, but we know that Adonalsium’s Investiture is … well, more present on Roshar than it is some other places. If this is the case, then I’d suggest that the blocking/non-Soulcasting metal is from Honor, and the conducting metal is from Cultivation, meaning we have yet to see the effect of Odium’s metal. (Or, we may have seen it and just not recognized it as a god-metal yet.)

Theories? Arguments? Other clues I’m missing?

 

We’ll be leaving the speculation to you in the comments, so have fun and remember to be respectful of the opinions of others! Also, when you disagree, please make sure you argue the ideas and don’t attack the person. No one likes it when the moderators are forced to turn on post approval.

Alice is pleased with the outcome of the Dawnshard novella-turned-novel. Those extra words, while they’re forcing extra time in the process, have made a great novella into an outstanding novel. You’re going to love it.

Lyndsey would like to remind you that, if you live in the United States, it is election day. Please exercise your constitutional right to vote, if you are able to do so (and haven’t already). If you’re not sure how, please check here. If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or Instagram.

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